A look at grouping and doing stuff together in SWTOR

MMO.MaverickMMO.Maverick WonderlandMember CommonPosts: 7,619

Over the months there has been quite some worry of various skeptics and other MMO gamers who were wondering if BW's focus on story and making questing more entertaining, wouldn't have a detrimental effect on group play and community, even more than some feel themepark MMO's already suffer from. After all, if questing, a solo oriented activity, becomes even more immersive and enjoyable, then why would people even group up in SWTOR?

 

Recently there have been several demo events where people could get a taste of grouping and teamplay in SWTOR, and from those events and the info released, it looks like group play in SWTOR will be as good as in other MMO's and possibly even better, for multiple reasons.

First, let's see what demo players had to say about their experiences with doing stuff together in SWTOR:

 


  • At one point I grouped up with 3 other Troopers. I had a lot of fun with this group, even though it was hard to stay together as everyone kept getting lost/seperated. At one point, we all used our grenade launchers on a group of about 3 separatists. That was absolutely beautiful and lived up to my expectations of a trooper group. I felt very powerful. They all died instantly and the fireworks were glorious (DeathCorp)

  • Multiplayer dialog system was actually really fun; it felt like it was an accomplishment to get a word in edgewise during the conversation. It was interesting to hear the different responses from the group members, and this made the entire thing flow quite well. It feels like a real conversation between people with differing opinions - Darthhater

  • In the conversation, all four players get their own BioWare wheel-of-convo options, and chooses their response. It's an interesting way to handle having your other party members being controlled by actual humans, and worked really well. The dynamic of it made it seem like you were playing any other BioWare RPG with the complete story immersion you expect (Siegel, Newsarama)

  • Each player in the party gets a chance to be part of the conversation. We each got to pick a response to what the Yoda-clone was saying, and by performing a die roll (just like a loot roll in WoW) the game determines who gets to speak. This might not seem that cool, but just remember that you’re all going to be disagreeing over what to say. My Smuggler was a **** and told the Yoda man to shut up about all the force crap and get to the point. The Jedi Knight was being noble and voicing his concern for people, you know “save the orphans and puppies”. It was actually a fun dynamic and it adds a mini-game to talking to NPCs. It makes you feel less like a group of people getting together because you all need to kill the same thing, and it lets you become a real party; a group of adventures who are in this together (bedivere, Fronttowardsgamer)

  • For my time spent with BioWare’s title, I have to say I’m impressed. Granted it was just a small bit of the overall content, but it’s looking like Flashpoints will be some seriously pleasing experiences for the PvE folks out there (myself included. In all though, much like the Knights of the Old Republic before it, ToR is feeling every bit like Star Wars as I could hope. The sounds, the music, the style… it’s all pitch perfect. If BioWare can deliver as compelling of an experience as Taral V for an entire MMO, there will be a lot of happy people (William Murphy, mmorpg.com)

  • One of the great things about this is that you also still earn experience points when you die, as long as you do not hit the "Return to Med Center" button. While it may seem counter intuitive to lay on the ground dead while your party finishes the fight, all classes can use an out of combat resurrection ability by right clicking on a fallen comrade. This means the Flashpoint will progress more smoothly if incapacitated players wait around for a friend to quickly pick them back up between battles, and the continued experience gain may be the carrot to keep you from self-rezzing at the entrance (Sado, Darthhater)

  • The entire Flashpoint was fluid and enjoyable. The conversations ended up being extremely fun, with people smack talking on the high rolls and lamenting on the low ones. The combat was fast and exciting, and the ability for seasoned players to power through it without a healer was a welcome addition to an early level experience. All in all, it was a pretty good time (Dover, Darthhater)

  • [Black Talon flashpoint] we technically had no tanks or healers. Although the IA can eventually heal you actually don’t get access to those skills until after selecting the Operative AC at level 10. On the flipside the BH doesn’t have any high threat or healing skills either until after their AC selection. This made each fight a DPS race which made things a bit interesting on boss fights. What I thought was awesome about these boss fights is that they actually had mechanics! Think back to the deadmines in WoW or any first-time dungeon in any other MMO, those fights were just tank-n-spanks but not here. At least half of these bosses had some form of mechanic to mix it up on you (Musco, Torocast)

  • What we were more curious about, or worried about, was how the RPG emphasis would get along with the MMO part of the game. The most innovative concept is the holo-communication between players. When a player begins a conversation with a quest-giver, a window automatically opens on the screens of other players in the group, asking them to join the conversation. If they stop what they're doing and accept, a hologram version of them appears at the side of their group member, and they're able to watch and participate in the dialogue that follows. Seeing the dialogue is not strictly necessary to getting the related quest, as there is still a "share" button in the quest log to loop in stragglers. But it's a great solution to preserving the RPG experience when dealing with a group of players without forcing the entire group to, for instance, move around a city together. Instead, the group can scatter to complete class quests or visit trainers and vendors, and at the same time pick up quests for the group in the areas they travel. They still get to experience all of the story with a fraction of the legwork (Arstechnica)

  • As far as group mechanics, few classes are cut and dry, which makes it easier to run heroic quests or flashpoints with a cobbled-together group of players. I ran a level 10 flashpoint, Black Talon, with another imperial agent and two bounty hunters, and we never suffered for lack of a particular class mechanic. The bounty hunters made decent makeshift tanks as we ran around saving the Imperial ship from Republic attackers, and since all classes could heal themselves out of battle, there was little downtime (Arstechnica)

  • Erickson stressed that none of the multiplayer game experiences are compulsory. " You never have to play PvP, you never have to play a heroic, you never have to play a flashpoint," he said. But since you lose none of the single-player experience by grouping up, and you get access to heroics and flashpoints you would otherwise have to miss, there isn't much reason not to try it. Players that are trying to hit max level, level 50, as quickly as possible are going to want to get in on the group action (Arstechnica)

  • Grouping on Hutta was actually still quite fun. Sidequest dialogue can all be done in multiplayer and so you can start earning your Dark Side and Light Side points along with your friends while having to suffer the consequences of their choices if they make a decision you didn’t want to and win the conversation roll. This may sound like a negative, but it’s actually incredibly social and fun; there’s a kind of “party game” element to it (Bitton, mmorpg.com)

  • Grouping made things go faster for sure, but what was really interesting was the inclusion of Heroic quest content even on the starting world. We discovered a heroic quest that sent us deep within the bowels of Hutta to wipe out some unsavory characters and creatures in the sewers and found that our group cohesion was quite adequately tested. Crowd controlling enemies, target prioritization, etc., were all important for us to get through the encounter, which ultimately culminated with a fight against a robotic mini-boss who was guarding a glowing Datacron. Datacrons are scattered throughout the game world and offer unique permanent boosts to your statistics. This Datacron was actually part of a set, which when completed would offer even more significant bonuses according to BioWare’s Daniel Erickson (Bitton, mmorpg.com)

  • We wanted the full-bore experience of playing a massively multiplayer Star Wars game, and that also meant the grouping aspect. So we set out to do something no one else at the immersion day decided to take part in. You see, from the get-go Star Wars: The Old Republic has group content. Many of its features are even designed around group play. They want you to be social, to interact with other players nearby and form lasting relationships in the game. One such feature we were told about before we even sat in front of our stations to play the game, is the holo-com. It takes 'quest' npc interaction -- called missions in The Old Republic -- to an entirely new level. If you're not in range to go join your groupmate at the NPC, you can simply click a button and join the conversation via your holo-communicator. This in essence means that only one person ever has to actually be at an NPC to begin or turn in a mission -- everyone else can be remote and still interact in the conversation portion. another system designed to encourage the multiplayer aspect of MMO is 'Social Points,' a sort of ancillary experience bar. As you participate in conversations with a group, each person is allowed to select the dialogue response they'd like to see play out (Curse)

  • We'd done something none of their internal testers have ever done: we focused on group content above and beyond anything else, wherever possible. While the first group-based content doesn't come along until right around level five, it's definitely there. Foregoing our class story missions until around level nine, we instead took on the 'heroic' content on the trash planet Hutta. It's stuff that you absolutely must form a group to tackle. It was actually a challenge. Though we struggled along the way we eventually did complete the heroic quests on Hutta. The reward was fantastic: a blue quality item and a lot of experience, not only from turning in the quests, but also from doing the content itself. We managed to outpace everyone else on levels, even while being grouped up doing group-based content, which has notoriously been slower than leveling by yourself in more recent MMOs (Curse)

  • All in all Black Talon is probably tied for my favorite experience of the entire weekend. These flashpoints are so well designed and so much fun I cannot wait to see what else BioWare comes out with. One of the primary reasons they excite me so much is that these are great early indications of what the endgame will look like, assuming of course it is tied to flashpoint of some kind which I expect it to be (Musco, Torocast)

  • After playing Taral V at PAX East, and now The Black Talon at the Fan Site Summit, I feel confident in saying that fans of this kind of group content have all the reasons in the world to believe that BioWare is going to deliver in this area (Lethality, Ask A Jedi)

  • As we continued through the dialogue I noticed that social points began popping up each time I won a roll. Although we don't completely know exactly what these points do, the fact that a reward is associated with your dialogue roll caused me to pay even more attention to each outcome. Thankfully, the random rolls in conversation don't appear to be the only avenue to social points as I believe I saw them appear after completing objectives as a group (Dover, Darthhater)

  • While the Black Talon [flashpoint] wasn’t ultimately a challenge for our particular group, it definitely put to test everything we’d learned about our classes on Hutta and especially how our classes played together as a group. In the end, there are certainly familiar feelings of running through a group instance together in Flashpoints, but like everything else in Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare’s signature storytelling comes through, and this really ends up setting the experience apart from your typical dungeon romp. BioWare’s strengths come through here with the way the story is told visually. Enemies are bursting through walls and boarding your ship, sparks fly everywhere, and huge space battles are erupting outside as you’re making a mad dash through a hangar to board a transport. While you’ll mostly feel like you’re running through your typical MMO dungeon, there is a lot going on screen to draw you into what’s going on whether it’s simply stuff going on in the background or slick cutscenes foreshadowing an epic boss fight (Bitton, mmorpg.com)

  • While flashpoints are certainly exciting, the quantity and level of difficulty involving the group content - even on the first planet players will experience in the game - is very encouraging. It's a bit of a lost aspect of the MMO genre that has fallen by the wayside as studios focus on more casual aspects of leveling progression, and it's one that will be a welcomed return by many (Curse)

 

Now, those were the impressions of players of the demo's and special events.

But what are the things that make SWTOR group play more interesting and a better gameplay experience than the standard grouping in AAA titles? What makes it different from the standard fare of group play in MMO's, the points that make it more encouraging or attractive:

 

no more waiting around, yelling 'LF healer/tank' all the time:  a wellknown issue in other MMO's, having to wait around until a tank or healer is found to complete a group, won't be an issue in SWTOR. When no healer or tank or any 4th person can be found, a Companion (healer/tank/otherwise) can fill in that 4th spot. It'll make a dungeon maybe more challenging, but still better than with only 3 people to do the dungeon. Besides that, there's more emphasis on hybrid classes, classes being able to fill in various roles making groups more flexible and have higher survivability in different combinations.

 

leveling in group is faster than solo questing: an incentive that older MMO's like EQ offered but that had gotten lost in newer MMO's, namely that leveling in a group goes faster than leveling solo. In SWTOR players discovered that players in group will be able to level without doing Class story content, there's enough content for groups to find outside of dungeons, and groups are able to level faster than (most) solo players.

 

Social points: a number of activities in SWTOR will give social points. You get social points for 'winning' a multiplayer dialogue, for doing group stuff and activities together and such. Social points among others can be used at a social vendor, where you can obtain special items. Social points also seem to accumulate into giving you new social tiers or levels. It's one of those added incentives that can encourage doing stuff with other players.

 

multiplayer dialogue: in contrast to questing in other MMO's, SWTOR provides the opportunity of a whole group actively participating and interacting in the quest dialogues and plot progression.Those that have experienced it in gameplay seem to be positive about the added fun and engagement this offers, compared to the regular sharing and settling of quests with groups in MMO's. The cinematic multiplayer dialogues and rolling on decisions and conversations offers both immersion and a minigame aspect where before with group quest handling there was none of that.

 

Holocom presence: another mechanic that provides convenience and immersion is the Holocom. Not all players have to be at the same location to do the dialogue and quest NPC part, when they're elsewhere in town for example buying or selling stuff, when a group quest is started or finished, a player can opt to be present as a hologram.

 

interesting/challenging gameplay right from the start: from the earliest levels, it appears there's enough group content available for players to progress in, but also the encounters offer more challenge and variety in its boss encounters and other harder encounters, where merely tank & spank tactics aren't enough to handle them. More mobs than usual in MMO's, more cc required and challenging and varied boss encounters already at the lowest levels makes group play more fun to do too.

 

Group survivability and flexibility: a number of little things that provide extra convenience in team play. Everyone can revive team members and everyone has self heals outside of combat, you gain group XP even when dead which encourages players to wait instead of them spawn at the start of a dungeon or res point and run back.  Add to that multipurpose, hybrid classes that can do various roles and tasks on the fly.

 

There's no telling how things will be in the higher levels, or in level cap raid content  or World Arcs or other endgame content when it comes to players working together, but reading the reactions of demo players and these differences in features compared with how it's normally done in MMO's, it certainly makes SWTOR team play and doing stuff together quite promising so far, imo.

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The ease with which predictions are made on these forums:
Fratman: "I'm saying Spring 2012 at the earliest [for TOR release]. Anyone still clinging to 2011 is deluding themself at this point."

Comments

  • ktanner3ktanner3 lakeland, FLMember UncommonPosts: 4,050
    I can guarentee you that more people will be grouping just because it will make the leveling process faster.

    Currently Playing: Star Wars The Old Republic

  • whilanwhilan Everett, WAMember UncommonPosts: 3,472

    Not surprised although am pleased that they see grouping as a more viable way of leveling then soloing, it is an MMo after all. your suppose to be intereacting with other people more then doing things by yourself.

    However i'm also extremely happy they are making both viable ways of playing just that it's better to group over all. Nothing is forced on you but you have multiple ways of doing things.

    Help me Bioware, you're my only hope.

    Is ToR going to be good? Dude it's Bioware making a freaking star wars game, all signs point to awesome. -G4tv MMo report.

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  • slprslpr lisbonMember Posts: 340

    "Between the flashpoint and heroics, it was very apparent that working as a group has a distinct advantage in leveling speed over playing alone. While groups did not always move as quickly through the content as single players did alone, by the same point in the story, they would be between one and two levels higher. At lower levels this wasn’t that big of a problem, but the lost experience over time could stack unfavorably against lone wolves, to the point that they won’t be in a position to pass up nonessential quests, and might have to grind extra experience from enemies."

    From the WIRED write-up.

    http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2011/04/star-wars-the-old-republic/

    Sounds good to me, i really like this! It encourages people to group.

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  • DarkPonyDarkPony RotterdamMember Posts: 5,566

    Great idea for a thread this. Will link to it when I see another uninformed person stating that "Swtor is just a single player rpg".

    p.s. the "The entire Flashpoint was fluid and enjoyable.... "  quote is double.

  • slprslpr lisbonMember Posts: 340

    Originally posted by DarkPony

    Great idea for a thread this. Will link to it when I see another uninformed person stating that "Swtor is just a single player rpg".
    p.s. the "The entire Flashpoint was fluid and enjoyable.... "  quote is double.

    Alot of people are saying that the flashpoint was amazing! And Bioware knows that atm not every flashpoint they have, is on the same quality level of the black talon! I'm happy they acknowledge that and are going to fix it.

    image

  • DarkPonyDarkPony RotterdamMember Posts: 5,566

    Originally posted by slpr


    Originally posted by DarkPony


    Great idea for a thread this. Will link to it when I see another uninformed person stating that "Swtor is just a single player rpg".
    p.s. the "The entire Flashpoint was fluid and enjoyable.... "  quote is double.

    Alot of people are saying that the flashpoint was amazing! And Bioware knows that atm not every flashpoint they have, is on the same quality level of the black talon! I'm happy they acknowledge that and are going to fix it.

    No I mean 'double' as in 'quoted twice' :)

  • slprslpr lisbonMember Posts: 340

    Originally posted by DarkPony


    Originally posted by slpr



    Originally posted by DarkPony


    Great idea for a thread this. Will link to it when I see another uninformed person stating that "Swtor is just a single player rpg".
    p.s. the "The entire Flashpoint was fluid and enjoyable.... "  quote is double.

    Alot of people are saying that the flashpoint was amazing! And Bioware knows that atm not every flashpoint they have, is on the same quality level of the black talon! I'm happy they acknowledge that and are going to fix it.

    No I mean 'double' as in 'quoted twice' :)

    Yeah, i was just saying that alot of people enjoyed the flashpoint .:p

    image

  • DarkPonyDarkPony RotterdamMember Posts: 5,566

    Originally posted by slpr


    Originally posted by DarkPony



    Originally posted by slpr



    Originally posted by DarkPony


    Great idea for a thread this. Will link to it when I see another uninformed person stating that "Swtor is just a single player rpg".
    p.s. the "The entire Flashpoint was fluid and enjoyable.... "  quote is double.

    Alot of people are saying that the flashpoint was amazing! And Bioware knows that atm not every flashpoint they have, is on the same quality level of the black talon! I'm happy they acknowledge that and are going to fix it.

    No I mean 'double' as in 'quoted twice' :)

    Yeah, i was just saying that alot of people enjoyed the flashpoint .:p

    Ah ok :)

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